Becoming richard pryor by Saul, Assistant Professor Of English Scott

By Saul, Assistant Professor Of English Scott

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Even more troublingly, blacks were subject to the vigilante justice of lynch law—made to feel that their lives were cheap and that a single case of mistaken identification could put them in the fatal clutch of a noose. The lynching of Samuel Bush in 1893 had left a deep stamp in the memory of local blacks. Police arrested Bush, an itinerant laborer from Mississippi, after a two-week search for a man who had attacked a couple of white women. Bush protested his innocence, yet many of the county’s leading white citizens rushed the jail to kidnap him, backed by a mob of a thousand.

He was lying on the street in a pool of blood, wearing nothing but his underclothes. His face was mauled and his mouth throbbing with unbelievable pain. According to police and a grand jury, Tip had stripped him of his clothes and all his gold—twenty-five dollars in gold money, his gold watch, and twenty-five dollars’ worth of gold in bridgework on his teeth. Even before being imprisoned for this act of amateur dentistry, Tip Carter had been arrested a stunning 150 times. Yet Decatur was a loose enough town, and Tip Carter a capable enough person, that he seemed rather to prosper while drifting in and out of jail.

Black women usually worked as domestic servants or laundresses. Black men were all-purpose laborers who, like Marie’s relations, worked intermittently as hod carriers, teamsters, cooks, janitors, and the like. Even more troublingly, blacks were subject to the vigilante justice of lynch law—made to feel that their lives were cheap and that a single case of mistaken identification could put them in the fatal clutch of a noose. The lynching of Samuel Bush in 1893 had left a deep stamp in the memory of local blacks.

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